Billiards’ blue bloods
Billiards chief Robert Mananquil said last week that if the Southeast Asian Games opened today, our national cue players would win four gold medals or even sweep the six at stake in pool.
“Our best effort in snooker and carom would result in bronze or even silver medal, but it would take hard work and luck for us to produce a medal in English billiards,” Mananquil candidly said.
In short, our cue crews, whose artistry never fails to attract huge crowds, would top the 10-event billiards tournament of at least seven of the 11 nations competing in the subcontinental multisports event later this year.
Through six most recent SEA Games since 2007, our cue teams have dominated the field with 19 gold medals.
Traditionally and historically, our closest competitors in pool are Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore.
The powerhouses in snooker/English billiards have been Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore while Vietnam and the Philippines are the only countries with carom (karambola) masters.
Although the actual SEA Games billiards blockbuster won’t be played at the Manila Hotel Tent until Dec. 3 to 11, Mananquil anchors his confidence on the formidable cast of 17 veteran internationalists out to banner our cause.
His national sports association (NSA) is yet to submit its list of entries by name for the 30th edition of the biennial meet in Clark City, Subic, Metro Manila, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna and La Union.
However, Mananquil said such a roster would include World Games and SEA Games gold medalists Carlo Biado, Dennis Orcollo and Warren Kiamco and SEA Games first-timers but overseas tested standouts Jeffrey Ignacio and Johann Chua.
The distaff side meanwhile would be led by defending SEA Games 9-ball champ Chezka Centeno, two-time 10-ball world titlist Rubilen Amit and seasoned overseas campaigners Iris Ranola and Floriza Andal.
The icing on the cake? Our team members would be mentored by two of the greatest pool players of all time—Efren “The Magician” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante, coach and assistant coach respectively.
The SEA Games stint is part of the NSA’s calendar of competitions to harness and sharpen talent for several world events in the future. Its biggest hope is the inclusion of cue sports featuring talented Filipino players in the Olympic Games.
After being denied entry to next year’s Tokyo Olympics, cue sports were again left out in the 2024 Games in Paris.
The admission process actually takes years and involves huge lobbying to convince International Olympic Committee delegates that billiards and snooker require enough physical effort to be considered as real sports.
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